In order to determine whether short term variations in plasma glucose and/or insulin influence milk lactose secretion in women, the effects of fasting and increased blood insulin and glucose on milk volume and composition were studied with glucose clamp methodology in exclusively and partially breast-feeding women. Twenty hours of fasting had no discernable effect on the output of milk or its macronutrient composition. Four hours of increased plasma insulin, studied under conditions where plasma glucose was maintained at the fasting level, had no effect on milk volume, milk glucose concentration, total fat content or lactose secretion rate. Increased plasma glucose, maintained at twice fasting levels for 4 to 6 h, produced a threefold increase in milk glucose concentration but had no significant effect on the rate of lactose synthesis. In partially breast-feeding women producing no more than 200 ml milk per day, a similar degree of hyperglycaemia increased milk glucose more than fourfold but did not significantly increase the milk secretion rate. It is concluded that human milk production is isolated from the homeostatic mechanisms that regulate glucose metabolism in the rest of the body, in part because the lactose synthetase system has a K m for glucose lower than the concentration available in the Golgi compartment.
Journal of Endocrinology (1993) 139, 165–173